Sunday, January 4, 2015

Eating My Shadow

I came across this term yesterday. While the discovery might have been coincidental for me, it wasn't by accident. Eating the shadow is a Jungian term for devouring the shameful, hidden, ugly, darkness of our personality.

In starting off the new year, I often think about goals, positive affirmations, and all those logical above-ground conscious mind things we do to program ourselves. But this year I was examining shadows. In particular I was looking at my own shadows, or the hideous part of me.

In psycholog-ese, eating the shadow means examining the hideous. And devouring it. To take the pain, body issues, the basic shame humans have over the body's grossness (smells, defecation, urination, oozing of fluids, dirt), to take all those emotions and feelings and to examine them without judgment but in the light. Once in the light, they can be laughed at, transformed, and symbolically consumed back into the personality.

I can see the shadow as a black cloud, a negative x-ray, and heavy energy. Today I saw it as a long train at the end of a dress. A train that runs for miles behind me that I take with me into every room. And the train is smeared with all my habits and hysterics, all my neurosis, psychosis, prejudices, anxieties, stinking and reeking of filth and darkness. And I withhold judgment and condemnation. I just examine this shadow me and how it replicates itself in my world, my surrounding environment, the things I'm attracted and repulsed by, my enemies who keep re-appearing with the same characteristics that I keep manufacturing from my subconscious. Overriding this entire shadow is one common thread that weaves it all together, that makes it grow and fester: fear.

The primal fear comes from the reptilian brain and is a wordless dread of abandonment, love loss, non-acceptance, not being worthy, being doomed to punishment from God or some higher power. The fear that all my life will be lead with no purpose and leave no mark on the world. The fear that this is all a mistake, an accidental big bang of chemicals, and that we are all here stumbling from cradle to grave in comic error. I take this dark matter and love it. Forgive it. I absolve this fear, and thus my shadow self.

The shadow becomes the light, and then I absorb it back into myself.

I thought about sitting down to a feast of my shadow. No shame, no worry about judgment in my past errors. I devour it and the poisoned darkness becomes the light-giving sustenance of life.

A few days ago one of my friends noted that no one says 'you're welcome.' He was at a spiritual retreat and at the end of it everyone was saying 'thank you, thank you, thank you.' But no one was saying 'you're welcome.' We were talking about the lack of 'you're welcome' in the spiritual community. He said it probably came from the general sense of false humility and feelings of unworthiness. 'You're welcome' sounds presumptuous and arrogant. But he noted that 'you're welcome' is actually just as important as saying 'thank you.'  It is acknowledging and receiving the gift. It's welcoming someone into your heart. Without this, a 'thank you' just becomes the gifted and re-gifted Christmas fruit cake that gets passed around. And a present unopened is a present wasted, like saying 'no, don't come close, I don't want this gift, I don't want this love, this attention.' The lack of 'you're welcome' comes from a deep negative shadow: lack of self-esteem. A well-balanced person can both give and receive gifts, love, and signs of appreciation.

I definitely think this is lack of 'welcome' is a part of my shadow. I'm hoping that the new year will usher in a chance to welcome more gifts and love into my heart. No shame, no fear, no hate. Only light. 

1 comment:

Mildred said...

Really important spiritual principle here. Had to stop to think about it for awhile.